Islands hold key to education crisis

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 April, 2013, 3:31am

Hong Kong is facing a crisis in primary education. No other topic has the ability to turn the faces of Hongkongers red with frustration and anxiety like education.

The pain points are clear and there are many solutions.

These solutions are feasible and the funding needed to implement them is available. If this was a venture capital deal, we'd be executing and signing final documents.

It is time to seriously address fundamental structural problems.

The solution to the problems affecting education was outlined in part by Peter Blatchford ("Don't deny students in need the benefits of small-class teaching", April 4).

His research suggests that the benefits of smaller classrooms to specific students have been shown to be real and sustainable. OK, but so what? Equally there is evidence that suggests the opposite is true. And so, smaller classrooms are only part of the solution.

The rest is what I call "going native".

Going native means allowing the student to gravitate towards a specific approach to learning rather than dictating the curriculum to them.

Then the learning process is supported with smaller classroom sizes, in an environment free from distractions, yet one that encourages creative thinking and exploration.

At the core of this solution is to build more schools on the outlying islands. What we have lost on Hong Kong Island is space, space that is readily available on several of the outlying islands.

It is inexpensive space, free from vehicles and noise pollution, rich in natural assets, like sandy beaches and lush forests, and, surprisingly, convenient and accessible.

Lamma has a population of about 6,000 and is the third largest of Hong Kong's islands. There is plenty of space and scope for schools on the island. Also, there are plenty of willing, qualified educators available. And, when it comes to transport, Lamma is only 15 minutes from Aberdeen by ferry.

Once you've factored in the new South Island MTR line, there is an interesting convergence of some really good things.

When it comes to education, the government needs to stop its linear thinking. It should focus on children, not parallel traders.

Adam Bornstein, Lamma